Hold on to What you Have Been Taught

Sunday the 24th of July 2016

Colossians 2: 6-19

Today I am going to preach on the Epistle reading from Colossians chapter 2. This word of God was written at a time where the Christian church at  Colossae was under stress because of a number of Judaizers. And not only this, but there were the added problems of “philosophy, empty deception, traditions of men, and elemental world principles.”

Now we do not live in a world where Jews are attacking and disrupting the Christian Church, so it would be easy to think that the problems they were facing have nothing to do with us. For example, not one of us here is being urged to undergo circumcision for promised spiritual benefits as were the church as Colossae. However, I believe that we need to think more deeply on a reading like this one, because I do believe that it speaks very much to us today and helps us to see the ways that the culture around us is influencing the church.

As I was thinking about this reading the very first verse stood out to me. It says this: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him”.

As Christians we speak of Jesus Christ being our Lord. When we come to worship we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord as scripture tells us to do. But how often do we stop and think about what this means for our everyday life. Why is it that this church has to be told to continue to live their lives in Jesus? Should they not be doing that? Isn’t this basic to our understanding of the Christian life? It goes on to say that we are to live our lives: “rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught…’

The fundamental issue for the church at Colossae was that they moved away from what they had been taught and that this made them open to attack. It made them open to be lead astray. The seriousness of it was that they were open to be lead away from Jesus himself, without really realising that this was happening.

We all here today, are here because we have been taught the Christian faith. We are gathered here as believers in Jesus because we have received Jesus through his Word; his word to us as taught by others. Whether it be parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers or friends, we all have had our Christian belief passed on to us. God has used significant people in our lives who He has used to teach us the Christian faith. It would be an interesting exercise sometime to think about who these people are for you that God has used. And we know and we believe in Jesus Christ and we know that he is Lord. We know that this is true, but we have a real problem.

We have the same temptation placed before us, which is to forget what we have been taught, which make us open to same attacks on our faith, as the Christians at Colossae faced.

The culture around us does not accept our faith. Jesus Christ is not their Lord. Our cultures dominant philosophy of life, is more and more based on their own human tradition and thinking. In our culture Jesus is not God, they are. According to this world we are all individuals and we find our own meaning in this life, without being accountable to anyone else. We choose what we want to do, how we want to live. No one else can tells us how to live our lives. As Christians we say that Jesus Christ is our Lord. Since Jesus is our Lord his reign should extend over all of our lives, there should be no area of life that does not come under Jesus authority—even the mundane, routine, and secular parts of their lives.

 

But we all struggle with this because the culture around us, like that of Colossae so easily deceives us. Our reading says: See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

This verse is one that we need to mediate on, because it is something that we all struggle with. d there is real danger here for us. If we are honest how often do interpret Jesus Lordship of our lives in terms of just the “spiritual” or churchly things. Yet choose to let the driving forces of our culture guide the rest of life, what we might say are the practical and relevant parts. This is not what it means to say Jesus is Lord. If he is Lord his is Lord over all of our lives, we cannot go around justifying ourselves by separating our church life from the other parts of life. This means that all of our lives, whether it relationships, money, work, etc all come under Jesus Lordship. We are to seek him out and ask him what he wants us to do in these things. You and I are not the god of our lives and as followers of Jesus we need to recognize this and remind ourselves of this because this is what the culture tells us.

Another very subtle way Christians can so easily stray is by seeing Jesus and the church as a tool for finding a meaningful and fulfilling life. Where we come to Jesus wanting him to provide meaning for our life, strength for the important things that need doing during in our lives , and perhaps we might even want refuge from the hurts and sorrows of our lives. We want help from him, and all these can be good things to want. But the issue that often we want Jesus to do what we want, not what He wants from us.

However Jesus sets that agenda for his children. He is the one who takes hold of our lives and conforms them to his image. He is the one who includes us in his life. He is the one who redefines, reshapes and sometimes re-orientates our lives. When Jesus is our Lord, we don’t demand from him, but we receive from him what he wants to do with our lives.

Verse 14 says: He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

In response to what Jesus Christ has done for you and me, the life of Christian discipleship, or following Jesus, means that we learn to walk with him though this life.  Allowing him to lead the way, allowing him to direct our path in life.

Jesus is God and He has authority. And in that authority that he has he lived died and rose again for your sins. But more than that you are joined to him in baptism. We as his children who belong to him. We are God’s children through Jesus Christ, and Jesus has been given authority and we are to submit to his authority and let him conform us, let him work in us, let him shape us and let him conform us to his reality.

Letting Jesus work in us, means that we make a stand. That we stand on and keep what we have been taught by God through his Word. It means that we continue to focus our attention on Jesus Christ and where he is leading us, and not being distracted or diverted by the culture around us. We are to let Jesus impact every aspect of our lives.

It is a challenge to live life as a Christian and there are struggles so I encourage each of you to actively thinking about the ways in which you are tempted to be lead away from Jesus and to remember again what you have been taught and hold on to it tightly. I also encourage you to encourage one another in the same way, encouraging each other to remain firm in the faith. And finally to be open to seeing where Jesus wants to lead you in your life at this time, and to keep your eyes on him and follow him.

Listening before Serving

Luke 10: 38-42

Today I am going to preach on the Gospel reading which is the account of Jesus interaction with two sisters, Martha and Mary. Jesus as he was travelling was invited by Martha into their home. Martha was welcoming Jesus and showing hospitality. Now while he was at their home Mary was sitting as Jesus feet listening to him speak. Martha was outraged because all of work of serving was left to her, all the meal preparation, the getting things organized, the making sure things were running smoothly were left to Martha and she did not think that it was fair. So she complains to Jesus wanting him to tell her sister off, so Mary would help her serve Jesus. Jesus however responds by saying: 41 “Martha, Martha you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I don’t know about you, but when I think about this account I really feel for Martha. She is the one who opens their home to Jesus and welcomes him in. She is the one who is serving him. Can you imagine her inviting Jesus into her home and not serving so there is no food and drink. This would have been, and is still today, considered rude. Martha was serving her Lord, while her sister Mary was not helping her. And yet it seems like Jesus chastises Martha, not Mary. But the question is why?

Throughout the last 2000 years many Christians have had difficulty with this account. Some Christians have understood that Mary chose the right thing: that is to sit as Jesus feet and listen to his Word. This is all that matters, so they close themselves off to the world, live monasteries where they can dedicate themselves to meditating on the Jesus. But this does not sit well with others. They will say Jesus came to serve us, and we are to serve others. This involves actual work, it involves us actually doing things, we can’t just sit back and contemplate God’s Word; we actually have to live it.

Martha’s serving was not the issue here, it was right for her to be serving Jesus as she was. The issue was that in her serving she became distracted. In serving her Lord, she took her eyes of him and focused on the service its self.

We get distracted at times don’t we? We can easily focus on all the things that we are doing, or perhaps we need to be doing, for Jesus to serve him but in the process take our eyes off him. The temptation we all face is the get lost in the ways that we are to serve him, to the point that we are not longer listening to him. We neglect to be in God’s Word, we neglect to read and to ponder what Jesus is saying to us so that we can respond, because we are so busy trying to serving him.

Martha had a good heart she really wanted to serve her Lord, but because she had taken her eyes away from Jesus, she was serving her own way in her own strength. The emphasis of her welcoming of Jesus was on her actions for him. What she was doing for him; the way that she was serving him.

Mary on the other hand, was not distracted. She realised that whilst Jesus was with them it was important to be where he was, to put herself in a position so that she could listen to him speaking. Mary was going all out to do this. Whilst it may not look like it to us she was taking a big risk. In that time and in that culture, for a woman to put herself in that position, where she is sitting at the feet of a man who entered her home, would have simply been scandalous. For a woman to put herself at the feet of a man implied closeness and intimacy. Mary was making herself vulnerable to Jesus. She wanted to connect with him, to listen to him in an intimate way. Mary had her eye on the prize so to speak.

And she was in a position where she was receiving from Jesus his Word to her. She made the choice to want to be close to Jesus and to listen to him. This is something that Martha could never do because she was so busy in her actions of serving.

It is easy for us to hear this account and think that Mary and Martha are the main characters in this account, but again, as with the case with the Good Samaritan, the main character here is Jesus himself. The one thing that is needed to according to Jesus, was hearing the word of God’s messenger and this had priority over providing for his physical needs (also Luke 8:15, 21). And while being focused on hospitality and serving others are very important parts of being a disciple it is even more important to have followers who attend to Jesus’ Word. In this way this saying of Jesus is less a condemnation of Martha’s busy acts of service and more a commendation of Mary’s attitude as a disciple.

Again here is the lesson for you and me. As Australians we live in a culture that says to us that we need to be productive. We can never be idle. And churches also fall into this habit of believing that the church as to be productive. We have to be doing things, we have to be busy, we have to be serving. And even as faithful Christians we can be caught up in the busyness of everyday living and the result is that the study of the Lord’s word is neglected. We lose sight of the one thing that is needed because we focus on all that there is to do.

We need to listen to Jesus and his Word to us. We need to put ourselves at his feet; the feet of the word of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the very Son of God. As he is the one who fulfilled what was written by Moses and the prophets, and he did it all for you and me. He lived the obedient life for you; he set his face to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die for you; he was raised from the dead and exalted for you; and he will come again in glory for you. His word will save you and transform your life. It is the one thing needed. Like Mary we need to let the Lord’s powerful and saving word mesmerize us.

The question is not so much what do I need to do for Jesus? But: What does Jesus do for me?

It is important here that we do not get the wrong impression. You and I as Christians are called to live a Holy life, we are called to follow Jesus with our actions, but it does not start with us serving him, but it starts with us receiving from him through his Word to us, then we go out and serve. We need to, like Mary, put ourselves at his feet first. This is not about one other here. It is not just listening to Jesus and neglecting to serve our Lord with our actions. No they belong together we serve him because he first comes and serves us.

And this is what worship for us is all about. We all come here this church building in midst of our often busy and sometimes complicated lives. We come here to put ourselves at Jesus feet. We don’t come here so much as to do, but as to listen. We listen to his words of forgiveness, we listen to his Word read out, we listen to my preaching in which his Word comes, we come to the Lord’s table to receive his body and blood, to help us and to strengthen us. Our Worship has to do with receiving from him in order that when we leave here we then serve him in our everyday lives. We come to worship to put ourselves at his feet. We also do this when we read our bibles at home, when we read it, we put ourselves at his feet, we let him speak to us, then we try to serve him.

So I encourage you all to think about how you can get yourselves into his Word. To think about how you can put yourselves at his feet, so that you can listen to him speaking to you. So that when you do serve others around others around you as you are called to do, you can know that our Lord is with you in your serving him and that you’re serving the way the he wants you to.

 

LWV Day Retreat – Gratitude

ladiesretreat

The 2016 Women’s Day Retreat with the theme of Gratitude, is hosted by Lutheran Women of Victoria.

Where?
Burnie

When?
Saturday, 13th  August 2016.

Time?
Start time 9.30am


The retreat is for Christian women of all ages and provides an opportunity for Bible study, discussion, friendship and fun!

Studies presented by guest study leaders are based on relevant issues and topics – the theme for this year being GRATITUDE. Time spent together promises to be a blessing as it enables participants to take time out from their busy routines, have some quiet time and gain spiritual refreshment.

Food and social activities included.

 

 

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Sunday the 10th of July 2016

Luke 10:25-37

When I was little my mum and I lived with my Grandfather, until I was 6 years old. As a child I had a habit of talking to strangers, I would just walk up to anyone and talk to them. I remember my Grandfather one day having stern words to me, and what he said stuck with me for a very long time. He told me that I was not to speak to strangers, because we don’t know them and we cannot trust everybody. When I was a teenage I asked him about this and he told me that he lamented how society had changed. He grew up in Liverpool a large metropolitan city, but even as a child he and brothers and sisters were free to roam the neighbourhood, they knew people in his street, families knew other families. But by the time I was a child according to my Grandfather, the world was no longer safe for children. I found this very sad for him. But there is some truth to it. But it is not just children but society as a whole. We tend live lives in our own homes and not interact with others who we do not know. Our society is very much like this. And this makes it hard for us to be a Christians who are called by God to love and serve our neighbours. Unfortunately in our world it does not come naturally to us.

In living life as Christians there many things about God and his Word that we do not understand. There are many things that we wrestle with. But there are also things which we assume are basic to our understanding of what the Christian life is all about. One these is: we are to love God, and we are to love our neighbours. Life following Jesus involves service. It means serving others. It happens on the path of everyday living. It is directed to those who we encounter on that path—our neighbors, or those whom God has put around us.

But just because we know this does not make it easy to do it?

In today’s Gospel reading from Luke chapter 10 we hear of a Lawyer having a discussion with Jesus about this very thing. The teacher of the law new that he was to love God and love and serve his neighbour. But when it came down to doing it, he wanted a way to avoid the difficulty. He wanted to come up with a way in which he could serve only the people that he wanted to serve. He wanted to come up with an excuse to get him of the hook of serving others that pushed him out of his comfort zone. He wanted to serve on his terms, not on God’s. So he asks the question: “who is my neighbor”

Jesus responds with the famous parable of the Good Samaritan.

A man is traveling the winding road through the rocky desert from Jerusalem to Jericho. He is accosted by thugs who attack, assault, rob, and beat him. They leave him as if he were road kill. Later he is approached by two men:

The first one is a priest, when he saw the bloodied fellow. He ignored him. If the man was dead, to touch him, or to have blood on him would be taboo. The priest would experience ceremonial defilement, he would become unclean. He would have to go through the process of becoming clean again. He would lose his priestly prerogatives. It would cost him too much. The reality for this priest is that this situation was just too messy! It was just too complicated. It was easier to ignore the situation and not become involved.

The second man was a Levite (a religious worker) who would have kept very busy in religious activities. His duties were to clean the temple and synagogue; maintain the holy furniture and vessels, direct the choirs and musicians for worship; maybe even organize the sacred library. Like the priest he was working for God. But when he saw the beaten man, he passed by. Maybe he was just too busy working for God; he did not have the time to waste.

As Jesus disciples we have opportunities to serve those around us. And this is where this parable Jesus speaks so clearly to us, because the Priest and the Levite in this parable can so easily describe you and me.

To serve others, to become involved can be too messy, or we can be too busy.

How often do we hesitate to get involved with people’s problems: those around us whose marriages are struggling, a neighbour who struggles with parenting and their children are undisciplined, a teenager who looks odd and does not seem to fit in, an older person who is struggling, whose house is run down; a neighbor or friend who is struggling with mental of physical health issues. How often do we say to ourselves, it’s too complicated it is easier not to become involved. Someone else can help them.

We live in a word that is busy. To help and serve others takes our time. We’ve got life scheduled to the minute. So we can’t fit the needs of others into our schedules. We’ve got other obligations and deadlines meet. We can’t afford to stop and get involved, because we can’t afford the time. We have more important things to think about and to do.

Jesus continues his parable bringing into it a Samaritan.

Samaritans were the hated enemy of Jews, considered half-breeds, traitors, and heretics. So when Jesus introduces this character, I would suggest to you that those who heard this expected the Samaritan to be a villain. Perhaps they expected the Samaritan to finish off the injured fellow. They had not time for Samaritans at all, they were the enemy.

And yet in this story, the Samaritan “has compassion” or mercy (v. 33). He rescues the Jewish victim, serves him, and goes out of his way and counts the cost for the injured man so that he is cared for.

Having completed the story, Jesus asks the pointed question to the lawyer: “Which proved to be a neighbour?” The lawyer responded: “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus then directs, “Go do likewise” (vv. 36–37).

It is not just to the lawyer that he says this, but he says: “Go do likewise” this to you and me. The problem is, we often don’t. The lives of others are too messy! Ours are too busy! We fail to serve. We fail to love our neighbors as ourselves.

But there is one in this account who does not fail, it not the fictional Samaritan of the parable, but the real-life one telling this parable. Jesus came into this messy world and connected with messed up people; prostitutes, publicans, tax collectors, lepers. More than that, he connected with sinners. Those who were outcasts in God’s sight.  Jesus was known as “friend of sinners.”(this title was given to him by his enemies).  He served them—healed, forgave, and released them from the mess of sin and the peril of death.

Again this is not just about them it is about you and me, Jesus serves us sinners! He heals, forgives, and releases us from our sin and its deadly consequences. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45).

This was Jesus’s mission: he saw us in our need (dying in sin), loved us, and took on himself the mess of our sin. He was beaten and bloodied so that we might be rescued, so that we might live. So that we now receive compassion, mercy and grace.

Now in response, to what Jesus has done for us, we now join Jesus’ mission, and serve in his name. We are called to serve in the messiness and busyness of life. And we are to do this because Jesus first served us.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is not much about actions, as it is about the attitude of our hearts. When we understand the compassion and mercy that we are shown, then we reach out to those around us with the same compassion and mercy. We do this for Jesus’ sake.

I came across a article about the famous Mother Teresa, where a man was observing Mother Teresa cleaning the wounds of a leper. He turned away in revulsion and said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Teresa looked at him and replied, “Neither would I. But I would do it for Jesus.”

I encourage you when you think about his parable to think about how you have been rescued by Jesus. To ponder on the fact that he gave his all that you might live. And to think about how you can serve others in the messiness and busyness of your life. Always remembering that we are to serve others for Jesus’ sake

Following Jesus together

Sunday the 3rd of July 2016

Luke 10: 1-11; 16-20

I wonder if many of you are like myself, in that sometimes when you read or hear Jesus speaking in the bible, you don’t first get what Jesus is on about. Jesus did and said some strange things didn’t he? Today’s Gospel reading from Luke Chapter 10 where Jesus sends out the seventy two is one of these places where it can be confusing and difficult for us to understand.

I suspect that over the years you would have heard many sermons on the importance of Jesus commanding us to go out and to reach out to those around us who do not know him. This is one of the major commands of Jesus to all his disciples, which includes all of us.

The mission that Jesus sent those seventy two, of his followers out on, is not a mission I could imagine wanting to do. It sounds more like orders received from central command on the series “Mission Impossible.” Listen to what he says and the language he uses “Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.” What a tough ask! Basically they were to have no provisions, not even a decent pair of walking shoes, danger was close to them, they were going into places where they would be open and vulnerable to attack, and they were not even allowed to stop to ask for directions. This sounds like some military exercise of survival that he was sending them on, rather than being sent spreading the Good News.

While Jesus’ demands may seem rather extreme, they should make us pause and think and I wonder if maybe that is exactly Jesus’ point. Maybe this is what Jesus is getting at. Stop and think. As you and I are sent by Jesus into the world in which we live in: What is it that you and I think we need? What are those things that you and I suppose we just have to have for a life lived in service to Jesus. What do we think we need to have to follow Jesus in this life?

To be honest this is where many Christian’s struggle because they think that they do not have what it takes. They don’t think that have what they need, or what is required. I have a passion for global mission. I have friends who are living overseas in the Middle East, in some very dangerous places. I have friends who have been in places and come back to Australia. Often when they come back the go to churches and tell of what God has been doing and believe me I have heard some modern day miracles that God has been performing in their lives. But one of the problems is that we can often see these people as hero’s. As these super Christians that are doing these amazing things, but we can’t be like them. Often verse 2 of today’s reading was quoted and used to try and motivate people: “the harvest is plentiful , but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field” Most Christians live normal everyday lives, and I have found that often when missionaries share, it leaves others feeling inadequate and even burdened, not that this is intentional.

As I was pondering this I started thinking about Jesus mission of Seventy Two from a different angle. I wonder whether it should also make us stop and think that maybe we are asking the wrong question. You see we like to know what we are to do. Just give us the instructions and we can then attempt to follow them. However in this case what God asks us to do is often far beyond what we could even imagine then we think it is simply unrealistic. Maybe God’s expectations are too high of us on this one, we might say. But what if the real question is not what you need? But, who you need?

Often when we read and hear scripture we so easily skip over important details. And one that we skip over here in this Word is the fact that he sends seventy two of them.

You see they we were not sent out alone, they were not on their own. Each of those sent had seventy one fellow disciples, friends in the faith, on whom to rely, to depend. That’s a lot of people, on which to count on if the going got rough. No one was doing this alone. Jesus was preparing and also teaching his disciples already this early on in his ministry of how important it was (and is) to rely on each other, especially in Jesus absence.

We don’t do this alone.

You and I need to hear this. Our Christian journey with our Lord in not walked in isolation; we have our brothers and sisters in Christ with us for a reason. We are in this mission field together. But we don’t always find this easy do we because we do not like to be interdependent upon others. We tend to find things to put in place of people. We can fill our lives with stuff so that we actually avoid having to depend up on others. Relying on others does not come naturally to most of us, but in God’s Kingdom and in his way of working it is important.

In this world that we live in today, I believe that as Christians we are going to be more a more in need of our brothers and sisters in Jesus, particularly in this period of time when as a Church we are fast becoming, if we have not already become the minority in our society. Where we may begin to feel even more isolated and discouraged, it is even more urgent that we see the people God has placed around us to encourage us.

If you look in the book of Acts at how the Christian Church began, you can see here in today’s reading the Jesus was preparing them. He was preparing them for the fact that there was going to be a lot of travelling when it came to spreading the gospel, as it says: “Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). These disciples needed to be prepared, they needed to know what was necessary to carry out this mission of the Gospel. And what did they learn, well as it turns out, when they had returned with joy, they learnt that all they needed is the name of Jesus and each other.

The nature of our Christian faith is communal. The Church of Jesus is made up of people for a reason. Too often in our world, the way we think about faith and spirituality are isolationist and independent. Like saying “my own faith, my own religious system, even my own God, are what matters” And, too often without thinking about this we can become dangerously autonomous. Yet, the nature of who we are as God’s people is to be in community with each other. We are called as His children, to be a part of this congregation and parish together. We are called to share in the life of Jesus together. We are called to carry each other’s burdens as it says in today’s Epistle reading from Galatians.

At the heart of this reading today is the reason why you and I are here in this place. We come here to this church because this is our group ‘of seventy’ if you like. We come to this church to journey with this diverse group of people whom God has put us here with; to be here with each other as we together journey with our Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst Jesus commands us to go; to be Christians here in this world; to spread Jesus Christ and the Gospel to those around us who do not know him, we don’t do this alone by ourselves, rather we do it together.

I encourage you to take the time to think about those who God has place in your life, to help and encourage you on your Journey with Jesus. To think about how God is working in this very community amongst you all working together for his purpose. Know that you are not alone in your journey, but that God has given you this community to support you, as you seek to follow what Jesus.